Monday, March 16, 2015

Music Education Monday: Arranging 101

Jazz may be known as an improvisational art form, but any time more than a couple of jazz musicians get together, there may be some sort of arranging involved, too.

So, for this week's "Music Education Monday," we've got links to free online materials that will provide you autodidacts out there with some information on how to write arrangements for a jazz ensemble.

For starters, check out the "Basics of Horn Arranging" from, which is oriented mostly toward writing for smaller and mid-sized groups; the short presentation "Arranging for the Jazz Combo," put together a few years back by former St. Louisan Kris Berg for a state band directors' group in Texas; and "Arranging for Big Band 1-2-3,"  a tutorial by trumpeter and educator Michael Mossman that has a helpful checklist of questions to consider before starting to write an arrangement.

You also may want to bookmark the site, which apparently was created as a supplement to an online course, but contains a lot of material that can be perused without signing up for anything.

Along similar lines, the "Jazz Arranging Tutorial" once used at the University of Northern Colorado may have been designed originally to work with audio material from a specific CD, but also functions as a handy one-page reference for some basic concepts and terms, as well as info like instrument ranges.

When you're ready for a deeper dive, head over to "Jazz Arranging Online," which breaks down a book by bassist and jazz educator Chuck Israels into a series of online lessons presented as forum posts. The format may be a little awkward, but there's lots of good info there and Israels, who's best known for his work with pianist Bill Evans and for directing the National Jazz Ensemble, certainly has the profile and necessary experience to be a credible instructor.

Lastly, another in-depth resource available online for free is the ebook version of "Arranging by Examples: The Practical Guide to Jazz and Pop Orchestra Arranging," a 220-page PDF written (in English) by the Dutch composer and arranger Frans Absil. While it's a free version of what presumably is a more comprehensive print book, there's plenty of useful info there for aspiring arrangers.

Of course, it's a big internet out there, so this list is by no means comprehensive. Do you know of other useful online resources or tutorials for aspiring arrangers? If so, please share in the comments.

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